Telling My Story: Storyteller and Beauty Seeker

Caitlin Fernandez
3 min readFeb 17, 2023

Made in Del Rio, Texas. Grown in Miami, Florida. Playin’ in Harrisonburg, Virginia. That’s Caitlin Fernandez.

I was born in Del Rio, Texas. A small, overlooked, old town ten minutes from the U.S.–Mexico border. It doesn’t look like much, but beyond the dust, cacti, and scorching sun, it’s one of the most significant parts of my life. It’s where my mom grew up and where her side of the family remains to this day. Where my dad was assigned for his job and then met my mom before they had me. It’s a physical reminder of my Mexican roots and where I took my first steps in the world. It’s where I saw my first Monarch Butterfly Migration, and where I first heard country music.

A year later, my dad got reassigned for his job, and we moved to Pembroke Pines, Florida. This is the next most significant part of my life. I spent majority of my childhood here growing up between the wetlands of the Everglades and the hot, sandy beaches of Miami. I ran and rode my bike barefoot through humid air and vibrant grass collecting bouquets of dandelions and sawgrass. It was here that I became the kid in my class who caught a spark of love for the freedom of performing and the healing power of music on the makeshift stage of our primary school’s cafeteria.

Fourteen years later, my family then moved again. This time to Fairfax, Virginia where I attended Paul VI Catholic High School. I worked extremely hard in my classes while continuing to play music and participate in theater and sports for four years. All while running on an average of four hours of sleep, a cup of coffee, and metaphorical steam. That didn’t change when I got to James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia where I was determined to pursue success in getting a degree in a creative field and finding both my voice and my life’s mission.

So why Graphic Design? I’ve never defined myself as one type of creator, I’ve always wanted to have a well-rounded set of skills in the visual and performing arts. The Graphic Design field provided the flexibility to explore any industry and create a variety of digital and print products. I’ve also always been a collector and observer. To this day, I’m collecting t-shirts, stickers, posters, tags, notes, sketches — anything that I can hold in my hands or tuck into a Field Notes notebook. Because of these things, I found that Graphic Design was the best trail to follow. It would lead to a variety of industries that need visual communication for their audiences.

So why am I “playin’” in Harrisonburg? “Playin’” as a musician, designer, and writer doesn’t mean messing around to avoid responsibilities. It means bringing my experiences of pure joy, childlike wonder, and service of kindness to create a product that makes the world a more colorful and beautiful place. To make stories more accessible to everyone through design, music, and writing. To bring people together through the shared human experience. To help heal our society’s mental health crisis by bringing people back from the negative, isolating effects of technology. To take elitism out of abstract art and make design and creativity more accessible to anyone and everyone. To make people think critically, not make them feel like they can’t think for themselves or challenge themselves to think on a higher level.

During my four years here at James Madison University pursuing a B.F.A in Graphic Design with a minor in Creative Writing and a career in music starting within the Harrisonburg music community, I’ve gained and strengthened a variety of skills and tools. Written communication has become a crucial tool as a designer. Being able to communicate a message effectively and creatively through words first has helped me then translate it directly into successful visual communication. Musical performance and composition abilities have guided me in finding my niche as a designer — a storyteller and beauty seeker. They’ve taught me how to take risks, try new techniques, use my voice, listen and work with others, search for inspiration and beauty in all things big and small, and take something that has already been done but make it into something new.

I believe I have found my voice, but it will continue to evolve as my story continues to unfold. And I believe I’ve found my life’s mission as a story teller and beauty seeker — to use my diverse experiences and creative gifts in music, writing, and design to serve others.